Sunday, October 29, 2017


As expected, the recent Budget 2018 delivered by the PM last Friday was a huge disappointment for senior citizens and the elderly. Once again, they are given crumbs. So, that begs the question, what can our government offer us older Malaysians to make us happy and looking forward to our retirement years? We have given 30-40 of our prime years in the service of the country. Surely that must merit some recognition and appreciation?

We want an outdoor gym for seniors in every housing estate and public park where we can exercise

Let's start with what we don't want first. We don't want awards and titles, for they benefit only a few selected individuals, not the community. We don't want one-off or annual cash handouts which offer only short-term benefits to the needy. We want genuine senior discounts on groceries, health supplements, fuel and meals, and other essentials.

Above all, we want to be accorded respect and dignity, not ignored or seen as unproductive and a burden to society

We certainly don't want empty pre-election promises of what the government can do or will do for us. We don't want vague references to what it plans to do for seniors. We want details, specifics and deadlines. And if the government doesn't deliver, we have the right to protest, to hold it accountable if it reneges on its word, and to withhold our vote if any of our under-performing ministers should stand for re-election. That's not a threat or a warning, but a straightforward case of cause and effect, action (or non-action) and reaction.

So, what do we want?

Here's a short checklist to begin with for the relevant ministeries to take note of. In no particular order.
  • more elder-friendly facilities in public places e.g. government buildings, parks and hospitals. More benches to rest weary feet, decent public toilets, priority queues for the elderly, etc.
  • a public transport system (and transport hubs) that takes into account the physical limitations of the elderly and OKUs. There has been vast improvement in the MRT-LRT lines, but bus transport and the peripherals suck, and need urgent upgrading.
  • a senior privilege card with genuine discounts that covers items seniors regularly spend on. By 'genuine' we mean 'without a long list of terms and conditions' or means-tested. The govenment should give seniors a discount card similar to the one for university students.
  • well-maintained and fully-equipped senior community centres in every housing area or constituency, not the rundown balai raya that we see at present. 
  • more opportunties for re-training and re-employment of seniors so they can return to the work force to supplement their savings
  • more affordable nursing care for those who require long term care, and well-managed welfare homes for the elderly 
  • lifelong learning programmes similar to that offered at University of the Third Age at UPM Serdang to be extended to more areas 
  • no age discrimination but respect for all seniors, please
An impossible dream?

If you click on any of the links above, you will find that SeniorsAloud has been making these proposals as far back as 2009. We will continue to voice our concerns till we are heard.

To give credit where credit is due, we appreciate the government's efforts in making public healthcare accessible and affordable to seniors. We welcome the discounts for seniors travelling on trains and buses. We also acknowledge the financial assistance given for funeral expenses (!) under the Mesra Usia Emas Scheme and other schemes. 

With seniors making up 8.8% of the population and growing steadily, Malaysia is on its way to becoming an ageing nation in the next 10-15 years. UN defines a country as ageing when 7% of its population is aged 65 and above.

But these provisions are either limited, too slow in implementation, or if already available are not efficiently maintained or managed. Moreover, most of these are concentrated in the Klang Valley. What about in other states? What about in Sabah and Sarawak? What is the govt doing for the wellbeing of the seniors and the elderly in these areas? Is it sufficient?

Each year when the budget is announced, we scan the papers looking for some tiny morsels of good news for seniors, only to be disappointed yet again. To quote from the 11th Malaysia Plan for 2016-20, 'supporting active ageing for the elderly' and 'the government will address the needs of...the elderly'. (The Star 22/5/15). That was two years ago. Has there been signifcant follow-up action? What do you think?

How long do senior citizens and the elderly in Malaysia have to wait before they hear these words from our ministers? Words are cheap, unless they are backed by prompt and effective action.

Our ministers are seniors themselves. Like us, they have elderly parents. The big difference is we are from the grassroots, they are from the ivory towers. One day they too will be elderly. Isn't it time they gave more attention to what senior citizens and the elderly want?

(The above is an updated version of a blog article written in May 2015.)